Find

I was leafing through an issue of Best American Poetry a couple weeks ago and found Sarah Manguso’s poem “Hell.” It just about knocked me over.

Hell

The second-hardest thing I have to do is not be longing’s slave. Hell is that. Hell is that, others, having a job, and not having a job. Hell is thinking continually of those who were truly great.

Hell is the moment you realize that you were ignorant of the fact, when it was true, that you were not yet ruined by desire.

The kind of music I want to continue hearing after I am dead is the kind that makes me think I will be capable of hearing it then.

There is music in Hell. Wind of desolation! It blows past the egg-eyed statues. The canopic jars are full of secrets.

The wind blows through me. I open my mouth to speak.

I recite the list of people I have copulated with. It does not take long. I say the names of my imaginary children. I call out four-syllable words beginning with B. This is how I stay alive.

Beelzebub. Brachiosaur. Bubble-headed. I don’t know how I stay alive. What I do know is that there is a light, far above us, that goes out when we die,

and that in Hell there is a gray tulip that grows without any sun. It reminds me of everything I failed at,

and I water it carefully. It is all I have to remind me of you.